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All too often overlooked or dismissed, the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” is heavenly for off-beat travellers. If the summer heat is too much, then temperate September and October days in Europe are the tonics, with still-warm evenings the perfect time to shrug on a sweater and take an atmospheric wander around quieter streets.
Autumn holidays in Europe let you share the sites with fewer people after schools swallow the summertime family holidaymakers and the sun worshipers have headed home.
Time it just right, and you’ll find seasonal delicacies to taste and a visual feast in the trees, as the annual transformation from a sea of green to fiery fiesta gets underway.
Autumn Breaks in Europe
The French Riviera has an illustrious international guestbook, signed by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, F Scott Fitzgerald and countless C18 European royals who flocked here for the health benefits of glorious sunshine later on in the year. Artists and authors of every calibre adore this coastline, not to mention the walkers following in their famous footsteps, enjoying cooler autumn temperatures.
Taking you there: Holidays in France
Softer autumn light makes the Loire a photographer’s paradise, especially after the summer sun scorching the walls of the many grandiose chateaux. Take a self-guided cycle or ramble and you can take as long as you need to linger and snap all the photos you want.
Taking you there: Loire trips
The sunlit avenues of the vineyards of Chianti are the back yard of cultural powerhouse Florence. Follow the fields to find tiny, family-owned wineries where Italian farmers are not so busy harvesting the grapes that they don’t have time to invite you in to taste their vintages.
Taking you there: Trips to Tuscany
Autumn means harvest, and European seasonal delicacies do not disappoint. Indulge in wild mushrooms, the very first chestnuts and of course, ‘black gold’ – every chef’s prize ingredient, the truffle.
Taking you there: Italy trips
Discover the Dolomites in autumnal hues, warm days amongst a colourful cascade of trees transforming from green to gold. Pedal past Lake Garda or trek to the Tre Cime in autumn and you’ll see these iconic sites without the buzz of high summer and day-tripping families.
Taking you there: Dolomites trips
The Sierra de Aitana is officially Spain’s best-kept secret, and it hits its stride in the autumn when temperatures finally cool enough for walkers to strike out. In August these dramatic limestone ridges are uncomfortably hot for almost all walkers, but in autumn it is the sunshine booster we all need.
Taking you there: Trips to Spain
Traditionally undertaken on foot since the medieval period, there is a new Way of St James: by bike. You’ll still be able to fill in your Pilgrim’s Passport along the way, cycling past animated agricultural scenes as the farmers hurry to finish the harvest. You’ll soon be able to identify the distinctive shape of horreos (grain silos) near the path.
Taking you there: Camino de Santiago trips
The island of Madeira is famous for its levadas, special irrigation channels unique to this beautiful Portuguese island. And in autumn these levadas are fuller, better for seeing the aqueducts in action. Maderia at this time is all about the water: with sea temperatures hovering around the 23 degrees mark, it’s also a great time to take a dip in the sea.
Taking you there: Portugal trips
Take a look at some of our favourite autumn holidays in Europe below.